PITTSBURGH - The good news for the Nationals is they seem to know what caused, or how to fix, every mistake they made in a 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
Jayson Werth said he got fooled on a fly ball from Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones in the first inning, thinking he’d hit it off the end of his bat instead of pulling it like he did, and missed the ball after running a bad route. Ian Desmond made a quick attempt at a catch-and-tag on Jose Tabata’s stolen base in the fourth, pulling his glove down before he had secured a high throw from Adam LaRoche, and said he felt better after switching to his practice glove during the game. And Livan Hernandez said part of his first-inning struggles came from a hastened warm-up routine that finished in the top of the first after the Nationals got 30 minutes’ notice the game was about to start following a rain delay - though, he noted, Pirates starter Jeff Karstens was already throwing in the bullpen when he arrived on the field.
“The other pitchers were there already. How? I think they knew before,” Hernandez said.
The bad news? The Nationals’ mistakes were numerous, occurred on routine plays and weren’t at all indicative of a defense they expected to be better than this.
After making three errors on Saturday night - all of them on stolen-base plays - the Nationals have committed 15 in 19 games. Desmond has six of those, tied for the most in the majors. And the mistakes, coupled with a still-slumping offense, were enough to sink them on Saturday.
“We were a poor defensive ball club last year and we just cannot be a poor defensive ball club,” manager Jim Riggleman said. “We’re too athletic to do that and we’ve just got to do a better job.”
If there’s anybody at the center of the mistakes, it’s Desmond, who committed 34 errors last season and is racking them up again this year despite improved throwing mechanics. Most of the gaffes are coming on routine plays, and Desmond was sitting at his locker after the game, ready to answer questions but at a loss to find solutions.
“I wish I had an answer. It’s obviously pretty frustrating,” Desmond said. “It’s getting a little ridiculous.”
Desmond’s practice glove is the same size as his game glove, he said, but he thought it might be more broken-in. Whatever the cause, he felt better after switching, though he only had one more ball hit to him after his second error.
The mistakes, though, turned Hernandez’s 450th consecutive start sour. And the Nationals know they need to get fixed quickly.
“In my life, I don’t ever remember dropping a ball that’s in the air,” Desmond said. “Especially to help Livo out. He’s got this big start, and ...”
Then, after letting out a long sigh, Desmond said, “I don’t know.”
Maybe all the solutions on Saturday night weren’t so obvious.